Greetings! A Play Project and Prompt
Hi Everyone! I hope you’re doing all right, staying safe and healthy. Maybe even writing more than usual during these unprecedented times.
My sister Kate Kraay and I are co-devising a play (fancy term for creating a play with a group of people) based on the human body’s response to stress in comparison with the earth’s response to stress over its lifetime. We’ve been most interested in the physical responses of womxn+ individuals – people who identify as women, gender non-binary or transgender identifying persons – but our research has looked at stress responses from all kinds of genders and demographics of people across the planet.
We started this project a year ago, before any of us were expecting this COVID-19 outbreak. Now our themes of dealing with stress in an isolated way, staring into the dragon’s mouth of our collective future and asking how we can stay strong, be calm and carry on in the face of disaster are all too real. So we’re pressing in, co-writing this performance piece in a virtual way, hoping we can still rehearse it in Seattle this spring and take it to London this summer for a festival there.
And we could use your help! Write on the prompts below and, if you feel like it, you can send your material to me at email@example.com. There are specific sections of the play where we may use some or all of your material. If you would like to be credited or thanked for your contributions in the final script should we use your wonderful writing, let us know! And if you wanna share but don’t want it in a play, that’s totally great too. All optional of course, and you can certainly write and not send us anything at all. This is for you too!
Write Your Moment of Crisis
As a warm-up, write your “moment of crisis” right now in five sense details/images. Start by reflecting, meditating on how you’re feeling right now and what’s going on in your body/mind. Close your eyes if it’s helpful. What are you experiencing these days during this pandemic? How is it affecting your bodies, minds, spirits, emotions? What does stress look like for you right now? Feel like? Smell like? Sound, taste like?
After considering that for a moment, write for 10+ minutes, getting it all out of your system and on paper. Try to write without stopping, keeping your hand moving, not editing, censoring yourself or worrying about spelling, grammar or punctuation. Set a timer for yourself so you don’t have to keep looking at the clock.
Anytime you get stuck, write: Stress looks like (or sounds/feels/smells/tastes like)… and keep going. The more specific the better and it doesn’t have to make logical sense. Stress can look like a badger juggling in your body or sound like a blue whale with a bad case of the hiccups.
When the time is up, you can read your work aloud – especially if there’s someone you’re quarantined with who can write with you. Writing and sharing immediately afterward can help release those stress feelings from the page (and our bodies) and help us connect with each other.
Get Outta the Chair!
After writing/reading that aloud, get up for a minute and shake your limbs, dance around, take a solo walk/run around the block, take a hot bath, do SOMETHING PHYSICAL to get out any stress feelings you felt by writing this.
After that, return to your paper. And take a look at the poem “How to Be Perfect” by Ron Padgett.
Try reading it out loud to get it in your bones. It’s a bit long but beautiful. If you only have time to read the first few lines for now, that’s okay. You’ll get the idea. Notice the deep and poignant lines butted up against the pedestrian and even the silly/whimsical.
Write a How To Poem
After reading “How to Be Perfect,” write your own “How to” poem about your experience right now. Except instead of “Be Perfect,” maybe you write “How to Survive a Pandemic in Isolation,” “How to Be Imperfect,” “How to Lose Your Mind,” “How to Make it Through a Global Disaster,” “How to Plant a Victory Garden” or just “How to Get Through the Day.”
First, choose what your “How to” poem is going to be about and make that the title (at least the working title). Choose an amount of time to write – maybe 15 or 20 minutes this time, or maybe you only have time for 5-10. Set a timer and write without thinking or editing, keeping your hands moving, trying to be specific and get everything out.
If you still have a moment, read your poem out loud (to yourself or someone close by – even FaceTime, Skype or Zoom a loved one to share your work!).
And if you’re feeling especially generous, you can share the poem with me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll be so glad and grateful – but no pressure. We get enough of that when we have to leave the house.
Thanks for writing with me! It’s an honor to share (virtual) space and time with you.
Take care and be safe out there,
Reading recommendation? Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties by Jen Silverman
“Definitely for mature audiences, but this is one I can’t get out of my head that got me laugh-swooning until I hiccuped and forgot momentarily about all things now. Not that it doesn’t deal with all things now — just in a way that bites and swings and doesn’t include a plague. I’m keeping those laugh-swoon-hiccups in my gut while writing this stress play, that’s for sure.”
Heidi Kraay examines the connection between brain and body, seeking empathy with fractured characters. Plays include see in the dark, How To Hide Your Monster, New Eden, and Kilgore, as well as co-devised plays, one-acts, short plays and plays for young audiences. Her work has been presented in Boise, regionally, in NYC and internationally, most recently through HomeGrown Theatre, Trinity Street Players and Tomo Suru Players. Recent publications include Z Publishing, Timshel Magazine, Willow Creek Journal and Dramatists Magazine. Heidi holds an MFA from California Institute of Integral Studies and is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. www.heidikraay.com